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Chairs and other enemies of your back
Last updated: Wednesday, August 26, 2015

From the minor but persistent twinge to the white-hot sort that lances up your spine, defying description and limiting movement, we've all had back pain.

Most people are aware of the basics of ergonomics: sit with a straight back, bend your legs and not your spine – all that stuff.

It’s probably scant comfort to know that nearly all your colleagues will suffer from back pain at some stage in their careers. A few minutes around the water cooler will tell you that: everyone has their war stories.

What's less well-known is that the severity of back pain may have little to do with the severity of the physiological damage. A herniated disc might not be at all painful, while a muscle spasm triggered by lifting something the wrong way can be agonising.

Most back pain is caused when one of the nerves or muscles in the back is put under some stress, or if one of the discs between the vertebra is damaged or out of place. Sometimes there's no apparent anatomical cause, but the pain is real enough.

Several factors can heighten your risk of back strain. Do you know what they are?

Sitting for long periods. Very few people have optimum posture when sitting and rather tend to sag down in their chairs. Swivel chairs – preferred by many office workers – develop a slight tilt to one side, placing strain on the back. Sit in the same skew chair every day and back strain is almost inevitable. You can combat this by sitting in a hugely expensive chair that doesn't tilt, or you can get yourself a backless Swedish chair. They feel uncomfortable at first, but you get used to them.

Being unfit and overweight. These conditions often occur together. The first means that your muscles lack the tone to support your spinal column. The second means that your big belly will pull your spine forward. Again, back pain will be a natural consequence. The solution? Lose weight and get fit. You needn't be& ... Read more


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